Short but sharp samurai flick from an early on in his career Hideo Gosha (‘Goyokin’, ‘Hitokiri’, ‘Violent Streets’), ‘Samurai Wolf’ still packs a punch despite its short running time and being almost 60 years old.
Kiba (Isao Natsuyagi) is a wandering samurai who goes by the moniker Furious Wolf. He happens upon a relay station run by the blind Chise who enlists his help to transport 30,000 ryo to the next station. Easier said than done when several warring groups hatch their own plans to get the ryo, plans the Wolf is all too happy to thwart. Fearing the wrath of the warring groups, Kiba takes a stand to rid station of corruption as his feelings for Chise begin to blossom.
Political intrigue, multiple greed infused manipulations, and more backstabbing and sword slashing that one may expect for a film that barely breaks an hour and ten minutes, ‘Samurai Wolf’ has a lot going on. Held together by the energetic and charismatic lead performance from Isao Natsuyagi (a samurai with a rough and tough exterior but a kind and warm interior), ‘Samurai Wolf’ overcomes any muddled execution by ramping up the pulpiness of the situation and cramming in as much samurai sword action as possible.
While it doesn’t feature the grandness of his later samurai epics ‘Goyokin’ and ‘Hitokiri’, Hideo Gosha embraces the low budget nature and pretty much single location of the remote relay station, to deliver some stylish and brutal chanbara action. However, Gosha also imbues proceedings with a sense of style (characters reflected in the blade of swords!) and even borders the early fight scenes on the avant-garde (no sound save for the clanging of sword blades or the gushing of blood from torn flesh!) to rise proceedings above pulpy trappings and deliver a swift, sharp, black and white soaked shocker.
Gosha followed up this fun flick with a sequel a year later.